[Sunny Shao – Co-funder of HER-CHA Tea]

Growing up in China, I’ve always been passionate about tea. I still remember the days when I can practice my gong fu brewing for an entire afternoon. Throughout my journey, visiting some of the most restricted areas where small-batch tea artisans make the most authentic premium tea, I have gained valuable knowledge in various aspects of tea. Among my tea-loving friends, I often came across questions about Chinese tea names and categorizations. Many of them have been confused about different tea names, especially the ones without a proper translation.

Today I want to talk about two types of oolong tea made in northern Fujian: Da Hong Pao (Red Drape) and Shui Xian (Water Lily). Both are dark oolongs, but they differ in appearance, color, and flavor.

Shui Xian (Water Lily)

Appearance: Sandy pieces on the back of the leaf

Tea color: Dark golden orange with a dark red ring

Flavor: Rich and long-lasting orchid-type floral taste 

 

Da Hong Pao (Red Drape)

Appearance: Tidily rolled and slightly twisted 

Tea color: Bright orange

Flavor: mineral and vibrant flavor with a sweet aftertaste followed by long-lasting aroma at the bottom of the cup

 

How these two dark oolongs differ in making techniques?

 

One of the most critical processes in oolong tea making is pan-fixing. This step uses high temperature to stop the active enzyme that is fermenting the leaves. Every single detail and element in pan-fixing will affect the final quality of the dark oolong. During the pan-fixing process, tea artisans will choose different burning materials depending on the type of dark oolong tea.

Shui Xian (Water Lily) & Qiu Sao

 

For “Water Lily,” tea artisans use a particular type of tree branch called Qiu Sao (autumn broom). These branches can create a large amount of flame and last a long time. This specific character makes it perfect for “Water Lily” oolong because it needs to be pan-fixed for a more extended period than other oolongs.

Da Hong Pao (Red Drape) & Mang Qi Gu

Mang Qi Gu is a type of Perennial herbs. In Chinese medicine, it is used to treat ant bites and small wounds. Tea artisans will pick median-sized Mang Qi Gu and feed them into the stove little by little. This herb is very easy to lit and put-off, and therefore the perfect burning material for “Red Drape” pan-fixing as it requires delicate control of temperature.